Flying makes me nervous. Not for all the usual reasons, like fear of cold water landings, fear of crashing and death, fear of sitting next to obese people, or chronic sneezers, or having some gun wielding maniac shoot a hole in the plane and consequently getting sucked through a tiny bullet hole due to air pressure differential (thanks, Fifth Grade Teacher). No. I get nervous about reading material. Do I have enough to read? What if we are delayed on the runway? What if we have to circle forever because of, I don't know, for whatever reason that happens? What if I run out of stuff to read?!
This has never happened, because I always board planes with my messenger bag full of books, magazines, and manuscripts. But that doesn't fully assuage my fear. What if I packed books that I don't like? That really pisses me off. Because they take up space. Especially the hardcovers. I want to tell all these authors who have failed me on planes, I gave up my leg room for you! Seriously. I try not to take any chances with books on planes.
I don't want to rely on airport book stores, so I chose my books in advance, and very carefully. It takes me just as long to pack my books as my clothes and beauty products. The most agonizing decisions are whether or not to take really gripping books that I've almost finished. My need to know how the book ends butts against the fact that I'll be done with it in half an hour or so, and then it will just take up space. I was recently on the fence about whether or not to bring The Center Cannot Hold, a memoir about schizophrenia. I was half way done with it, and though I was enjoying it, the writing seemed uninspired to me, particularly the narrative voice, making it less of a page turner, and it's a hardcover (though one of those small trim hardcovers), so I stared at it for quite some time, and furrowed my brow or whatever, and left it on the floor.
It's like this:
I'm having one of those days characterized by restless over-thinking, so I put together these charts, to share with you my decision making process. (These charts were inspired by Indexed, though they are nowhere near as cool as hers)
I was feeling good about my decision to bring Then We Came To The End on the plane. I was 50 pages in, and really enjoying it. It's not what I would call a page turner, but I wanted to stay in the world, which is narrated in a gossipy and intimate first person plural (we), and had the curious effect of making me nostalgic for my office and office interactions. Honestly, this book will make you miss your 9 to 5, and if you don't have one, it may make you want to go get one. After all, work (not baseball) is the great American past time.
As the cover hints, reading it is sort of like watching Office Space or The Office, but much, much better, and not just because I prefer reading to watching television, but because it's got so much more heart. There are these scenes that are both hilarious and absurd but also really heart wrenching and sad at the same time, like when Pam and Jim feel so bad for Dwight that they spend the weekend at his Bed & Breakfast/farm, except even better. I love it when authors can pull off a scene where you're not sure whether to laugh or to cry - you want to do both at the same time.
So I'm getting really into this book, but then something awful happens - I'm on page 120, and the next page is 185. I thought for a second that maybe this was on purpose, like Joshua Ferris was making some sort of metafictional point? But no, it was true, I was missing 60+ pages. I was pissed. And panicky.
After much deliberation (which I won't put in chart form) I ended up reading the rest of the book anyhow, and I could sort of infer what I'd missed. I got a complete copy after the flight, so I filled in the missing pages. Has this ever happened to y'all? It's like when you rent a movie that's really great, watch 1/4 of it, and then it gets all staticky or something. Except worse, because books are more expensive than movies and you're more invested in the entertainment experience.
Maybe, it's time I got a Kindle.